— James A. Garfield American politician, 20th President of the United States (in office in 1881) 1831 - 1881
1860s, Oration at Ravenna, Ohio (1865), Context: In the great crisis of the war, God brought us face to face with the mighty truth, that we must lose our own freedom or grant it to the slave. In the extremity of our distress, we called upon the black man to help us save the Republic; and, amid the very thunders of battle, we made a covenant with him, sealed both with his blood and with ours, and witnessed by Jehovah, that, when the nation was redeemed, he should be free, and share with us its glories and its blessings. The Omniscient Witness will appear in judgment against us if we do not fulfill that covenant. Have we done it? Have we given freedom to the black man? What is freedom? Is it mere negation? Is it the bare privilege of not being chained, of not being bought and sold, branded and scourged? If this is all, then freedom is a bitter mockery, a cruel delusion, and it may well be questioned whether slavery were not better. But liberty is no negation. It is a substantial, tangible reality. It is the realization of those imperishable truths of the Declaration, 'that all men are created equal'; that the sanction of all just government is 'the consent of the governed.' Can these be realized until each man has a right to be heard on all matters relating to himself? The plain truth is, that each man knows his own interest best It has been said, 'If he is compelled to pay, if he may be compelled to fight, if he be required implicitly to obey, he should be legally entitled to be told what for; to have his consent asked, and his opinion counted at what it is worth. There ought to be no pariahs in a full-grown and civilized nation, no persons disqualified except through their own default.' I would not insult your intelligence by discussing so plain a truth, had not the passion and prejudice of this generation called in question the very axioms of the Declaration.